Mobile Data Traffic Set to Hit 292 Exabytes by 2019

Mobile data use is on a faster growth trajectory than fixed network data use, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index™ (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2014 to 2019.

The top line of the forecast attempts to measure the annual run rate for global mobile data traffic. The five-year growth rate is astounding. For 2014, Cisco reported that the annual run rate for global mobile data was 30 exabytes. For 2019, Cisco is now forecasting the annual run rate for global mobile data to be 292 exabytes.

In contrast, Cisco’s 2014 VNI forecast for fixed data bandwidth has forecast that by 2018, global bandwidth consumption will reach 1.6 zettabytes.

A key driver for increasing mobile data use is the increasing number of global users. Cisco has estimated that in 2014, there were approximately 4.3 billion mobile users. By 2019, Cisco expects there to be 5.2 billion mobile users, all hungry for mobile data.

The era of the “dumb” phone, that is, the phone without smart data connectivity, is almost over. Cisco’s data shows that 88 percent of mobile traffic in 2014 was smart traffic leveraging advanced connectivity. That doesn’t mean, however, that 3G dominates, at least not yet. 2G still holds down a respectable share in 2014, though it will dwindle in the years ahead.

Cisco is not forecasting 3G connections to surpass 2G until 2017. 3G is still slower than the newer 4G/LTE, which is also growing its user base. By 2019, Cisco expects 4G will support 26 percent of mobile data connections, and 3G will hold down 44 percent of the market share. That said, even though 4G won’t dominate by connection volume, it will by traffic, with 68 percent of the global mobile data traffic share by 2019.

In 2019, Cisco expect 4G to generate up to 5.5 GB of mobile data traffic per month, up from 2.2 GB in 2014.

The increased used of 3G and 4G will also lead to an overall increase in the average global mobile network speed. In 2014, the average global mobile network data speed was 1.7 Mbps, which will grow to 4.0 by 2019.

So what are people doing with all those mobile devices and all that speed? Apparently, most users are watching videos. In 2014, 55 percent of global mobile data traffic was driven by mobile video. Cisco is forecasting that by 2019 that number will grow to 72 percent.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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